Let us get this clear: I am not a musician. I am able to play the piano a little bit, and I can sight read music just a little bit, but my musical schooling ended when I was in my early teens.

On the Mac, I've noodled around a little bit in the musical corners of GarageBand through the years. But never have I had the fun I had in the hours I spent playing with the new $5 GarageBand for iPad.

The intro of "smart" instruments and the tactile temperament of the iPad make the difference, I think. Garageband's Smart Instruments remove the learning curve generally required to make agreeable sounds: once I set my tune in D major, the smart guitar transforms into eight complimentary chords, which I can play by touching the chord name, strumming the strings, or choosing one of four autoplay styles. Within fifteen minutes I had created a multi-layered track with guitar, bass guitar, electric organ, and drum components. (My apologies to Fountains of Wayne: I butchered "Hey Julie." But had fun doing it.)

Now, the tactile thing: to use GarageBand on the Mac, you must employ a mouse or (if you're extremely trendy) a USB keyboard or a guitar with an elaborate input signal. Playing keys with a virtual keyboard is executing. Tapping out chords on an iPad screen, and running your fingers over virtual guitar strings? Fun. It's not that complex.

This really is not to imply that GarageBand for iPad is dumbed down or frivolous. The program itself is quite a big download, owing to its wide assortment of included virtual instruments. You can also record real instruments --I was able to use the $29 Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit to attach a Blue Snowball mic and record a vocal track. (I also used the kit to connect an M-Audio USB keyboard, and it worked great.)

The options GarageBand for iPad offers are extensive. It's possible for you to record tracks as Keyboard, Drums, Smart Drums, Smart Bass, Smart Keyboard, Smart Guitar, Guitar Amp, Audio Recorder, and Sampler. Computer Keyboard is what you'd expect, a virtual keyboard similar to those seen in other iPad programs (though with some nice customization features). Drums is a virtual drum kit you'll be able to bang around in, with a remarkable variation in sounds determined by where you hit the drums. The Smart instruments are all training-wheel variations of a lot of fun, and the real thing to use. Guitar Amp lets you plug in a guitar and start playing. Sound Recorder allows you to record anything via a microphone (the iPad's own, or one you attach via USB). Sampler allows you to sample anything--your dog, a belch, your garage-door opener--and turn it into a playable sound.

Getting sound out of GarageBand when you're done is not difficult. First is most easy: only e-mail a song. The program creates an AAC file and attaches it to an e-mail, just like that. You may also save an AAC file to your iPad's shared space, in order to drag it out of iTunes later. As a GarageBand project file, which you are able to link to a Mac and drag out, then open in GarageBand for Mac you may also save your endeavor to iTunes. I wasn't unable to test this feature, nevertheless, because it requires a GarageBand for Mac upgrade that had not yet been released.

So the exporting thing 's managed, but the one matter GarageBand can not appear to do is import anything. I wish there was a way to copy in an audio file and add it to a track. This will be a big boon for all those of us who want to use GarageBand for podcasting, and while I accept that GarageBand is a musical tool and a spoken-word tool second, it sure would be awesome to be able to create an entire podcast using GarageBand for iPad. (Presumably some musicians wouldn't mind bringing in a background track of their own, too?) Perhaps in a future update.

But my quibbles are minor. The fact is, you'll never get more for your $5 by buying a copy of GarageBand for than iPad. And since it is not incompatible with the first-generation iPad too, the delay do not need to be long. Unless you've never enjoyed music in your whole life, you need to buy GarageBand for iPad the second it reaches on the App Store.